NRA Opens Annual Convention in Charlotte, NC

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - One week after gun control advocates rallied in Washington, the National Rifle Association opens its 129th annual convention in Charlotte, North Carolina Friday with a plea to its 3.6 million members to get out and vote in November.

"I think this is the most important election in the history of firearms ownership in the country," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the Charlotte Observer.

"We're either going to go down the road of registering every firearm owner with the federal government, licensing every firearm owner, federal tests. Or we're going to be much better off with someone who will respect the freedom, but also be much tougher on people who abuse the freedom" to have a gun.

The NRA says the Mother's Day march against guns in Washington - the so-called Million Mom March - has caused a surge in NRA membership. In the last six weeks alone, according to the NRA, 200,000 new members have signed up and $10 million in donations have come in to NRA coffers.

For gun control advocates -- including President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore - the NRA is public enemy number one. "Being in the pocket of the NRA" has become one of the ultimate put-downs in Washington -- an attempt to discredit politicians who support the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Republican George W. Bush is often accused of "being in the NRA's pocket," a charge that gained momentum after an NRA vice president told a California audience that if Bush wins the White House, the NRA would "have a president...where we work out of their office."

Although he generally supports the rights of gun owners, Bush brushed off the remark, saying, "I don't want to disappoint the man, but I'll be setting up shop in the White House, not the will be my office. I'll make the decisions."

Some gun-rights supporters note that Handgun Control Inc. has close ties to the Clinton administration.

At the four-day convention that begins Friday, as many as 40,000 NRA members will discuss the future of gun control and gun ownership, view gun exhibitions, and attend educational seminars, one of them focusing on the weapons of George Washington's army.

The NRA Board of Directors is expected to elect actor Charlton Heston to a third term as NRA president on Monday. The NRA amended its bylaws last year so Heston would be allowed to serve a third term.

While anti-gun people are expected to protest outside the Charlotte convention hall, some of the controversy at this year's NRA convention is internal. Smith & Wesson, the only gun maker to sign a deal with the federal government, will attend the NRA convention, and it expects to get an earful from customers who perceive its capitulation as a "sell-out."

In the agreement it signed on March 17, Smith & Wesson - the world's largest manufacturer of handguns - agreed to the federal government's demands that it install child trigger locks and develop "smart gun" technology.

The 60-point agreement also includes marketing changes that are binding on gun dealers who sell S&W products, and perhaps most controversial, the agreement provides for the creation of an outside "oversight commission" made up of local, state and federal officials, who would supervise S&W's business practices.

In exchange, the federal government dropped its threat of a lawsuit against Smith & Wesson.

Smith & Wesson said it signed the deal because it was facing the threat of lawsuits that could put it out of business. has a reporter at the NRA's annual meeting, and we invite you to check back at this Web site for details of the proceedings.

See Earlier Stories:
Retail Backlash May Await Smith & Wesson (3/29/00)
Both Sides Misfire Trading Accusations on Gun Control (3/14/00)